Syria Direct: News Update 8-27-15

Mysterious bombings reach Sunni Homs neighborhood

The explosion of a tanker at a popular gas station in a Sunni neighborhood of Homs city that claimed six lives and injured dozens of others on Wednesday raised suspicions from across the political spectrum to the cause of the blast.

Wednesday’s incident is the latest of a year-long string of mysterious explosions in the city of Homs, although previous incidents were limited to pro-regime Alawite neighborhoods.

Syrian state-owned media station SANA reported that a “terrorist rocket attack” was what blew up the tanker at the Maamo Station in the Insha’at neighborhood of Homs.

Other reports blamed neglect on the part of the gas stations operators, either due to a “a lit cigarette butt” or a “short circuit,” Ahamd Jawhar, a local editor for the opposition news outlet Syria Mubasher told Syria Direct on Thursday.

“The gas stations has cameras but it is believed that the regime security took the tapes after the explosion,” Jawhar said, mentioning that this procedure was common after explosions.

A resident of the neighborhood, who preferred to remain anonymous for fear of his safety, believed the explosion was a response to local resident’s refusal of regime requests to enlist their sons in the National Defense Forces.

"We, the people of the neighborhood, are sure that the regime is behind this explosion," which he says was intended to "deliver a message to us: Enlist your children."

Homs city, the provincial capital, is controlled by the Syrian regime with the exception of the holdout district of Al-Waer.

A Homs city gas station after an explosion. Photo courtesy of All4syria.

Nusra one step closer to major regime airbase

Jabhat a-Nusra reportedly stormed and captured the west gate of Abu a-Duhur military airbase in west Idlib province on Wednesday night, as close as Al-Qaeda’s Syria franchise has come to the regime’s second largest airbase, Smart News correspondent Ammar Abu Raed told Syria Direct on Thursday.

Although Nusra reportedly captured the airport’s west gate, “clashes are ongoing,” said Abu Raed. The regime is launching “a surface-to-surface missile volley, originating from Hama airbase, 70km to the southwest,” al-Laith al-Aasi, Idlib News Agency correspondent, told Syria Direct on Thursday.

Accounts differ as to the extent of Nusra’s advance. “A number of terrorists were killed and wounded with their weapons destroyed by the Syrian air force,” wrote official regime news agency SANA on Thursday, which reported no capture of airbase grounds.

While acknowledging regime airstrikes, the sorties “aimed to stave off any further capture of the airbase beyond its west gate,” pro-opposition London paper al-Araby al-Jadeed reported on Wednesday, confirming opposition accounts.

Abu a-Duhur holds some “750 regime soldiers, several planes, and nearly 50 tanks, artillery pieces and heavy machine guns,” said correspondent al-Aasi.